Unable to win local support for deployment of V-22 Ospreys to Saga airport in southwestern Japan, the Japanese government is delaying delivery of the trouble-prone aircraft.
Japanese Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya said Friday the government is postponing delivery of the first batch of US-made Osprey tilt-rotor transport aircraft, initially planned for this fall, to a yet-to-be confirmed later date.
"It's true that we are seeing a delay in the entire schedule. We'll try to realize the delivery as soon as possible," Iwaya told reporters, without elaborating on when the aircraft are now expected to arrive to Japan, local media reported.
The Defense Ministry plans to deploy 17 Ospreys at Saga airport during the four years from fiscal 2018 as part of efforts to beef up defense of the far-flung islands in the southwest amid China's increasingly aggressive posture.
The Saga prefectural government in August approved the deployment of Ospreys on condition that the central government pays it 10 billion yen ($88 million) over 20 years, but local residents are opposed to the deployment on grounds that they are noisy and trouble-prone.
The Asahi Shimbun had reported in a November 2017 article that the serious accident rate of the US Marines’ Ospreys had surged to its highest level since its deployment to Japan in 2012. The accident rate in Japan was 3.27 per 100,000 flight hours as of the end of September that year, quoting figures provided by the US Defense Department.
The rate is calculated based on occurrence of Class A accidents, which are defined as incidents causing at least $2 million (227 million yen) in damage or death. In comparison, the accident rate was 2.72 for all Osprey aircraft deployed by the U.S. Marine Corps around the world.
In December 2016, an Osprey crash-landed in waters off Nago, Okinawa Prefecture. Another Osprey went down in waters off northeastern Australia in August, killing three Marines. The accidents involved Ospreys stationed at the US Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture.